Does it feel like Deja vu in the education world lately? It should because the proposed Tiered Licensure includes many of elements of the now defunct “Luna Laws.”
Idahoans have already heard this sales-pitch before. See, voters told the state they didn’t want things like this when they rejected props 1, 2, and 3.
Tiered Licensure is an attempt to rebrand Luna’s Props 1 and 2. Here’s a reminder from State Impact Idaho on just what those laws were calling for:
- District superintendents, school administrators, and teachers get an annual evaluation. At least 50 percent of it must be based on measurable student growth. Teachers’ and principals’ evaluations must include parent input.
- Principals can decide which teachers come to their schools.
- Bonuses are available for student academic growth measured by statewide standardized tests given each spring. Bonuses would go to all administrators and teachers at a school with a certain amount of improvement in scores.All teachers and administrators at a school could get a bonus if the school’s average score on the spring test is in the top 50 percent of schools statewide.
- Local school boards will create systems by which teachers and administrators can get bonuses based on other performance measures such as graduation rates, advanced placement classes taken and parental involvement.
- Teachers can get bonuses for working in hard to fill positions. At least every two years the State Board of Education will determine which positions should be considered ‘hard to fill’ and rank them based on need. Local boards can choose from the state board’s list which positions are hardest to fill in their districts.
- If a district can’t find a qualified teacher for a hard to fill position it can use some of the bonus money to train a teacher for the position.
- A district can designate up to 25 percent of its teachers to get bonuses for working extra hours in leadership roles. Those could include activities like peer mentoring, curriculum development, grant writing and earning a “Master Teacher” designation.
Don’t those recommendations sound familiar? They should because many of the proposed rules under tiered licensure use almost word-for-word language in the rules. The last bullet point, regarding a “Master Teacher” is particularly telling of the connection between Props 1 & 2 and the current Tiered Certification proposal.
Luckily, it seems that at least a few notables are listening to citizens’ displeasure this time around. Heidi Knittel, a candidate for Idaho’s Senate seat District 12, also sees between the lines. She writes on her website:
“Tiered Licensure,” one of the 20 recommendations by Governor Otter’s Task Force, smells a lot like Proposition 2, the soundly defeated “Luna Laws” merit-pay system. There are other similarities. Once again, with the Task Force recommendations, educators, parents and students have been cut out of the Legislative process. Once again, Stakeholders have been silenced.
As someone who advocates in the schools, on behalf of children with special education needs, Tiered Licensure befuddles me. Any educator evaluation system that links career advancement, including pay, to test-based, student performance, simply cannot work. Since the inception of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, children with disabilities have been given the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment, with mainstream integration being the most optimal. This means that children with cognitive challenges and other learning disabilities are often in the mainstream classroom, working at their own pace, sometimes with assistive devices. It is unlikely that most of these “special needs” kids will place very highly on an academic test that is being used to determine their teacher’s salary. I am also baffled that “ESL” populations did not (apparently) come into consideration when Tiered Licensure became a recommendation. How can these students possibly be lumped into measurement device along with the rest of the mainstream class. Another, even more nuanced, question to consider is, “What defines student achievement”? Is it subject mastery? Is it overall student growth? And if so, what defines “student growth”?
Heidi’s correct. Tiered Licensure is an attempt to rebrand Luna’s Props 1 and 2. An attempt to tie standardized tests scores from minority populations such as special education and English Language Learners is particularly inappropriate for both the students and the teachers as it might create an additional barrier that would scare away an otherwise talented instructor from working with these populations.
We already rejected the Luna Laws. Not just by a little bit. Idahoans don’t want these policies in their schools. Yet, Tiered Licensure attempts to bring back baggage that Idahoans have clearly already kicked over the ledge.
A different name, with the same luggage, does not a better legislation package create.
Tying a teachers certification, compensation, and evaluation to standardized test scores is bad for students, parents, teachers, administrators, and schools.
Particularly for minority student populations, we need to be creating incentives for teachers to work with the hardest students; this proposal does just the opposite by scaring talented instructors away from the toughest youth due to fear that their paychecks, employment, and teaching credential could be impacted.